A Loud yet Hardly Audible Voice: Urban Youth Language in “Street Literature”

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


    Conference abstract: Recent years have seen the appearance of a new use of language in the French postcolonial novel: the French urban youth vernacular or français contemporain des cités (FCC). This linguistic variety allows underprivileged youths from the banlieues to express their rebellion against the authorities by deliberately violating the norms of standard language. They consequently use lexical input from immigrant languages, in particular Arabic and English, verlan (a kind of coded backslang based on syllabic inversion) and an un-French pronunciation, in which the first rather than the last syllable is stressed. In view of the societal rejection of this non-standard variety, it has had difficulty penetrating literature. However, this is now beginning to change, with FCC appearing in a number of novels, mostly by young “beur” authors such as Faïza Guène, Mohammed Razane and Rachid Djaïdani. Literary scholars might therefore consider broadening their scope to include this aspect, which until now has been almost exclusively studied in sociolinguistics. Moreover, now that the translation of some of these novels is called for, it is also becoming a relevant research topic in translation studies. The transfer of this genre does indeed raise a number of questions. For example, if we assume that translation is a “cultural political practice” (Venuti 2008, 19), which options do translators have to convey the resistant discourse of young immigrant slang users? In what way will the relationship between language use and social identity affect the target text? Is it possible to compensate for translation loss? And how are source and target texts received in their respective cultures? I will draw on a small corpus of French novels that have been partially translated into Dutch in an attempt to answer these questions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBearing Across
    Subtitle of host publicationTranslating Literary Narratives of Migration
    EditorsArvi Sepp, Philippe Humblé
    Place of PublicationTrier
    PublisherWissenschaftlichter Verlag Trier
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Print)978-3-86821-693-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Publication series

    NameIntercultural Knowledge


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